You just lost your job. You may be crushed. You may be in denial. You may realize your work was toxic and be genuinely happy you never have to go back. Or, you may not fully understand how you’re feeling.
Regardless of your state of mind, it’s hard, and finding a new job can be even harder. Many people simply update their resume and apply for positions that look interesting. That’s one way to handle it, but it’s also likely to be insufficient. Plus, it’s important to give yourself time to process the loss.
I’ve been in the exact spot you’re in now. I was laid off from an investment bank at a time when finance roles were hard to come by. Through personal experience, and through my work as a career coach helping countless people find jobs, I’ve put together a comprehensive timeline of the steps to follow if you’re in this situation.
The very first thing you should do after leaving the office is find someone to talk to. You probably won’t be in the mood to talk to everyone about your situation, but speaking with a close friend can help.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to vent, it’s time to start writing. Write about what just happened, how you’re feeling, how this impacts your plans, and what you might do going forward. The goal isn’t to come up with a full game plan or even to write coherently. Rather, the goal is to capture the thoughts and emotions you’re experiencing so you won’t replay them over and over in your mind.
When I was unemployed, I spent days sitting on the couch in my pajamas. My wife would get home from work to find me in the exact spot as when she’d left in the morning.
Without the structure of a job, you’re likely to feel less productive and your well-being might suffer, and that’s OK. But even if you’re not ready to start looking for work, there are other things you can do, including file for unemployment benefits if you’re eligble. This was a step I didn’t take for a few months and I missed out on a lot of money. Don’t let that happen to you.
The next step is to update your resume. Depending on the condition it’s in, this may take more than a day. Here are a few resources to help:
With your resume in tip-top shape, let’s turn your attention to LinkedIn. Check out these links to get your profile looking amazing:
Make a list of companies you’d absolutely love to work at. Start with a minimum of five, but no more than 20. Once you have this list, think about people you know at each company. LinkedIn’s a great tool to help with this as the company page will show the first and second degree connections you have at each one.
Starting with companies rather than just looking for openings will put you in the mindset of pursuing opportunities you love, rather than looking for what’s available. Additionally, 80% of roles never get posted, and the majority of people find jobs through networking.
With your networking efforts underway, now you can start searching for positions. You can begin right here at The Muse. Depending on your industry, you may also find these niche job search websites valuable.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to set up alerts on each site as this will automate a lot of your search, saving you both time and energy.
Make a list of 10 people you haven’t connected with in a while and invite them to lunch or coffee. This may take you out of your comfort zone. Do it anyway.
Then, I strongly recommend sending an email to your network letting them know you’re looking. Head over to LinkedIn and click the “My Network” tab. In the top left, you’ll see your total number of connections. Select “See all.”
From this list, identify people who can help. Put them into two groups: those who’ll receive a personal note and those who’ll get a mass email. In your message, explain what you’re looking for and how they can help. The more specific you are, the better they’ll be able to help. For more details on this approach, check out “Help Me Find a Job!” Emails to Send to Your Network.
You’ve been at this search for over a week and could benefit from a day off. After losing my job, I worked hard on my search Monday through Friday, then unplugged on the weekends. This gave me the stamina I needed to keep moving even when I faced setbacks.
Now may be a good time to plan a fun trip. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but a change of scenery, even if just for a few days, can be a nice break from your search.
As you continue your networking efforts, check out the LinkedIn Alumni Tool. I think it’s the most underutilized feature, and it’s a great way to connect with people who have a similar background. Here’s a step-by-step guide if you need help getting started.
Have you started a daily practice? Are you exercising, writing in a journal, reading uplifting content, or doing whatever you committed to? It’s not too late to get started. I can’t overstate how important it is to take care of yourself during this period.
If I may, here’s one more thing to add to your daily practice. Identify one thing you’re grateful for each day and write it down. Studies have shown that regularly expressing gratitude will make you happier, and who doesn’t need an extra dose of happiness during a job search?
If you haven’t already, start prepping for interviews. “The Ultimate Interview Guide: 30 Prep Tips for Job Interview Success” provides solid advice for putting your best foot forward.
You’re one month in. Now’s an appropriate time to assess how it’s going. Are you actively interviewing for several roles? If not, continue the networking activities outlined in days five through nine. In fact, even if you’re experiencing some success, don’t stop until you have that offer in hand.
One of the mistakes I made was taking my foot off the gas pedal when I was confident I was going to land a position. The role didn’t work out and since I had put all my eggs in one basket, I had to start back at square one.
Focus on completing the activity, and not just the outcome. Set a goal for the number of people to connect with each week and then follow-through.
Now’s another suitable time to take stock of how things are going. If you’re not having success, it may make sense broaden your search. Are there similar roles in a different industry? Are you open to moving to a new city? Is now the time to change your career path?
If you’re several months into your search and not making the kind of progress you’d like, you may start to lose confidence. This is why it’s critical to surround yourself with positive influences. Negativity is contagious, so avoid people who will bring you down. Seek out those who are uplifting and will bring out the best in you.
You can do this. Keep up with your daily practice. Keep networking. Keep applying for relevant job openings. Focus on the things you can control and ignore those you can’t.
My final piece of advice is to treat your job search like a full-time job. Show up each day, do the work, then wrap things up and start over the next day.
Losing your job is hard, and we all handle it in different ways. But by following the timeline shared above, you’ll be well on your way to landing on your feet. And hey, you might end up finding a job that’s even better than the one you had before.
Photo of woman working on computer courtesy of Eva Katalin Kondoros/Getty Images.
Nathan Tanner is a career strategy author and HR leader at DoorDash. His bestselling book, Not Your Parents’ Workplace, teaches critical skills for thriving in the new world of work. Check out Nathan's website or join his monthly newsletter, which features his favorite books and articles to help you take your career to the next level.More from this Author